Kirklees foster carers stories.
David and Heather's story
60 year-old David Broadhead from Dewsbury took up foster caring almost ten years ago after a back injury at work forced him to give up his career in the motor trade ten years before.
Having started out as the primary foster carer, David was soon joined by his wife Heather, 59, who decided to leave her job at a children's nursery, so they could provide full time care to a child with additional needs.
In the time they've been fostering they've opened their home up to more than 50 vulnerable children of varying ages and ability levels, including many who were placed with them under respite and emergency care. It is this care that has helped make a big difference to the lives of dozens of children at a time when they've needed it most.
Despite the inevitable challenges of providing a loving home to so many children David explains that they take it all in their stride and that they wouldn't have it any other way, saying:
"Heather and I are short-term foster carers. This means that a child can live with us, from anything from just a day or two, to a few years and we've seen many children come and go."
"Many tell us they couldn't do it and I know some carers take it hard when a child moves on. We know others who've gone on to foster a child into adulthood after their first short-term placement because that's what's felt right for them. But for us there are no tears and no regrets. We very much see ourselves as a stepping stone in the lives of these children. It's definitely a mind-set."
"Of course there are some children who make a particular impression on us and that does make it harder. I still have warm memories of one child who came to us from new born until she was two. She was one of the brightest, most intelligent children I'd ever come across; a real joy to look after and I still regard her as a granddaughter."
"As a short-term foster carer you need to be flexible. This might involve receiving a child during unsociable hours or making last-minute adjustments to help a child feel secure. We once looked after a sister and her younger brother and we couldn't understand why he wouldn't stop crying every night at bed time. It wasn't until his sister told us he was upset because he wanted to sleep with her, so we moved his cot next to her bed and he was just fine after that. Another child was thrilled that, at the age of five, he finally got to have his own bed. It's often the little things that can make a big difference to a child."
"You also need to be practical. Sometimes it's easy sometimes it's not; sometimes there are tears, sometimes there's laughter and like any typical child, there are those who'll inevitably push boundaries. But we carry on because we're there to do a job; to keep them safe and warm and to steer them in the right direction until they can move on to somewhere more permanent. It's also important to remember that these children aren't to blame and we're not there to judge."
"Yet despite this I can honestly say that we've never had any major issues and I find it extremely rewarding to have the power to enhance a child's life. We've been able to make positive changes in many children in as little as a day, which is heart-warming to see."
"Even practical things like teaching them to put their rubbish in the bin or brushing their teeth twice a day instead of twice a week. Some children have had poor speech due to neglect but soon start speaking because we've invested the time in them. You'd be surprised how easily they take things in their stride and get on with it. Particularly if they've come from a chaotic background, routine and structure make a big difference."
"Fostering works really well for our family. Although our three children have now left home and have families of their own, we see them regularly and there's never a problem with the children fitting in. At Christmas and at family gatherings they're welcomed as though they're our own children. Our older grandchildren tend to bond with them straight away and often they're sad to see them move on."
"I provide training to prospective foster carers in Kirklees and always tell them that you get many of the joys of parenting. At the moment we're looking after three siblings; a girl aged five and her two young brothers aged four and two. Every day brings a different challenge but fostering is our life now and we wouldn't want to do anything else. It's really rewarding and we would encourage people to get in touch to find out more if they think they could make a difference to a child's life."